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   Growlanser - Import Retroview  

Defy Your Fate
by Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Medium to Hard
COMPLETION TIME
40-50 Hours
OVERALL

4.0/5.0

Rating definitions 

   The time may put us apart, I know that I will find you with faith, I don't believe in destiny but I know you were the one when our eyes met...Defied your Fate.

   In Japan in 1999, Career Soft developed, and Atlus released, the first installment of the Growlanser series, unfortunately destined to remain in the Land of the Rising Sun, with Americans getting the second and third installment a few years later thanks to Working Designs. Supposedly one of the best installments of the series, Growlanser proves to be an excellent start for the franchise, despite its frustrations at times.

   Growlanser, to begin, has a battle system that's neither fully turn-based nor fully real-time. You can see enemies wandering around fields and in dungeons, and when you come close to them, you start a fight with them and other nearby enemies. On start, you input various commands for all your characters (with your party maxing out at five playable characters and one AI-controlled NPC), including attacking, casting magic, using items, defending, and moving to a certain area on the battle map. Once the fight begins, your characters see through their commands, with each having a certain time to charge, and both your party and the enemy being able to temporarily delay one another's commands with successful attacks.

   Timing is everything in this battle system during the toughest battles, with story battles thrown into the mix and occasionally having objectives other than completely obliterating the enemy, and being easy at times to screw up. Once a character levels up, he or she gains a few points (starting at one and eventually increasing to three) the player can invest into various skills. The only major drawbacks of the battle system are that your characters at times don't walk around one another, and may attack enemies other than those you've chosen for them to fight. Otherwise, the battle system is thoroughly enjoyable.

   The interface is largely clean, yet admittedly could've been better. Character and item management isn't too much of a hassle, although the somewhat-sluggish nature of the menus can easily bog down battles, alongside one annoying flaw at the game's battle arena where you can't see how equipment prizes affect your characters' stats before obtaining them (you can, though, see how equipment affects your stats when shopping). The inability to save between certain battles is also a bit annoying, alongside a few dungeons where multiple rooms look alike. Otherwise, interaction is functional.

   Growlanser's battle system doesn't really resemble anything else I've experienced in the RPG genre, although the hero's annoying fairly sidekick is eerily reminiscent of Navi from Ocarina of Time.

   Though I don't exactly have a solid grasp of Japanese, Growlanser seems fairly heavy on story, when the mentioned fairy sidekick, Tippi, awakens the hero with a kick. The hero apparently has a complicated past, and meets several allies as he travels across his land, which includes nations such as Rolandia and Burnstein. The game gives the player several choices throughout the game, though I'm not certain if they affect the ending, during which your characters still receive epilogues saying what happens with them after the game's events. I certainly wish I could've understood the story more, though things may become clearer once I play the sequels.

   Noriyuki Iwadare provides the game's soundtrack, which is certainly one of his best, with solid town and battle themes, not to mention a few moving pieces during certain cutscenes. There's voice acting, too, and while the voices mostly fit the characters, they can get a bit annoying at times, especially with respect to Tippi, whose voice annoys you as you browse the menus. Otherwise, the game's aural aspect is well above the norm.

   The 2-D graphics are pretty nice, as well. Environments contain excellent design, alongside sprites containing decent proportions and looking like their character portraits, which fill the screen during cutscenes with animate lips. An anime cutscene opens the game, as well, with an occasional anime still during the game's events. The character sprites look a bit rusty in "small" form, although the graphics do their job overall.

   Growlanser's difficulty, finally, hovers between medium and hard, with strategy and quick thinking being critical in the last few boss battles. The game is fairly lengthy, as well, taking anywhere from forty to fifty hours to finish.

   Ultimately, Growlanser, despite its flaws, is a worthwhile import, and certainly deserved to traverse the Pacific, being one of the strongest Playstation One titles and all. Despite the decent ovation its sequels received in America, however, the fate of the series is certainly up in the air, what with Working Designs' apparent lack of activity alongside that of the series over in Japan.

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